Results of a multicenter, phase 2 study of nivolumab and ipilimumab for patients with advanced rare genitourinary malignancies

Cancer. 2021 Mar 15;127(6):840-849. doi: 10.1002/cncr.33328. Epub 2020 Nov 20.


Background: In this multicenter, single-arm, multicohort, phase 2 trial, the efficacy of nivolumab and ipilimumab was evaluated in patients with advanced rare genitourinary cancers, including bladder and upper tract carcinoma of variant histology (BUTCVH), adrenal tumors, platinum-refractory germ cell tumors, penile carcinoma, and prostate cancer of variant histology (NCT03333616).

Methods: Patients with rare genitourinary malignancies and no prior immune checkpoint inhibitor exposure were enrolled. Patients received nivolumab at 3 mg/kg and ipilimumab at 1 mg/kg intravenously every 3 weeks for 4 doses, and this was followed by 480 mg of nivolumab intravenously every 4 weeks. The primary endpoint was the objective response rate (ORR) by the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (version 1.1).

Results: Fifty-five patients were enrolled at 6 institutions between April 2018 and July 2019 in 3 cohorts: BUTCVH (n = 19), adrenal tumors (n = 18), and other tumors (n = 18). The median follow-up was 9.9 months (range, 1 to 21 months). Twenty-eight patients (51%) received 4 doses of nivolumab and ipilimumab; 25 patients received nivolumab maintenance for a median of 4 cycles (range, 1-18 cycles). The ORR for the entire study was 16% (80% confidence interval, 10%-25%); the ORR in the BUTCVH cohort, including 2 complete responses, was 37%, and it was 6% in the other 2 cohorts. Twenty-two patients (40%) developed treatment-related grade 3 or higher toxicities; 24% (n = 13) required high-dose steroids (≥40 mg of prednisone or the equivalent). Grade 5 events occurred in 3 patients; 1 death was treatment related.

Conclusions: Nivolumab and ipilimumab resulted in objective responses in a subset of patients with rare genitourinary malignancies, especially those with BUTCVH. An additional cohort exploring their activity in genitourinary tumors with neuroendocrine differentiation is ongoing.

Lay summary: Patients with rare cancers are often excluded from studies and have limited treatment options. Fifty-five patients with rare tumors of the genitourinary system were enrolled from multiple sites and were treated with nivolumab and ipilimumab, a regimen used for kidney cancer. The regimen showed activity in some patients, particularly those with bladder or upper tract cancers of unusual or variant histology; 37% of those patients responded to therapy. Additional studies are ongoing to better determine who benefits the most from this combination.

Keywords: adrenal tumor; bladder or upper tract tumor of variant histology; genitourinary; immunotherapy; rare cancer.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab / administration & dosage*
  • Ipilimumab / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nivolumab / administration & dosage*
  • Nivolumab / adverse effects
  • Rare Diseases
  • Urogenital Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Urogenital Neoplasms / mortality


  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab

Associated data